Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Prompt: Met One of Daughter’s Author Heroes Today: Adam Gidwitz


A chance purchase from the 2010 Scholastic catalog proved to be worth its weight in gold: Adam Gidwitz’s marvelously “horrible” fairy tale retellings in A Tale Dark and Grimm. It is one of a handful of books that Daughter will spontaneously run to fetch and read aloud to me at inopportune times, like when I am cooking three things at once for dinner, which is late as usual.

Last year, she anxiously pestered me to buy the sequel, In a Glass Grimly. Again at inopportune times, like in line at the grocery store, or in the car on the way to school. Somehow, we never quite got around to it. Gidwitz hasn’t been resting on his laurels, however, or waiting for us. He’s just released the third of this trilogy, The Grimm Conclusion. And today we got to hear him speak, as well as fortify our Grimm collection, at the fabulous Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC.

Gidwitz is a great speaker, perfectly targeting his young reading audience. He sounds suspiciously like the narrator in his books, delivering such lines as “young people here, like really young, you may want to go to the edge of the crowd so you can leave if this gets too scary,” with such earnestness that the children erupt into giggles and cannot wait for the scary part to begin. Which he warns about in advance. Often. “Get your fingers ready to plug in your ears and count to ten. When you get done counting, I’ll be done with the bloody, gory, scary part, and we’ll be fine.”

He talks to the parents too. “I write scary stories because children love them. And because they help us explore some really difficult emotions that people don’t talk about and can have a hard time understanding. And to give your children nightmares.”

Specializing in German and other European folk tales, Gidwitz delights in exploring the early, harsher, non-sanitized versions and bringing them to life with new combinations and unexpected twists along the way. His books start off at a fast clip and don’t slow down until the last page. Daughter has no doubt stayed up too late diving as far as possible into In a Glass Grimly.

The children in the audience asked several interesting questions.

“What’s your favorite fairy tale?” All the ones in my books. Especially "The Juniper Tree”, which he told us tonight. And how does a bird fly with a millstone around its neck?

“How long did it take to write your books?” The first took a year and a half, the second took two years, and the third took a year and a half. The second book has 264 versions of revisions on his computer! Perhaps he should take one child’s suggestion of putting together a “director’s edition” and show some of the changes along the way!

“Which of your books are you most confident is your best?” The first one was sort of a happy accident, beginner’s luck. The second one is a glorious mess. The third is perhaps the most polished. They’re all great. Read them.

"What were your favorite books when you were growing up?" Tintin and Roald Dahl's Matilda. Read them.

“How did you get started writing?” He tells a great story of being the worst second grade teacher in the world, with the most unruly class ever brought together in one classroom. In despair, he sat down with the few “good” children and said, “I’m going to tell you a story. Once upon a time…” and the entire class (well, almost the entire class) eventually settled down to listen. It turns out, Gidwitz is really good at storytelling. And kids really like to hear stories. So much so, they often don’t even realize that they’re learning. How bout that?

“What are you writing next?” He’s not entirely sure, but more fairy tales. There might even be a mermaid. There will definitely be blood. And gore. And scary stuff.

We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Adam Gidwitz, thanks for writing such wonderful stories. Thanks for sharing them with us in print and in person. Thanks for your patience and good cheer signing books for children of so many ages.

More! More!

Time writing:
30 minutes
October word count:

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